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Slow change

The latest race equality data shows that there is still “much, much more work to do” if the NHS is to remove racial bias from how its staff are treated.

In 2016-17, there was an England wide reduction in the likelihood of black and minority ethnic staff facing a formal discipline process compared to white colleagues – but behind this national improvement, HSJ analysis reveals wide variation.

BME staff were 1.4 times more likely to be disciplined compared to their non-BME colleagues, down from 1.56 in the previous year.

However, while the chance of a BME person entering a formal disciplinary process compared to a white person has reduced at 48 per cent of trusts since 2015-16, it increased in 42 per cent.

Looking at trusts’ workforce race equality standard data, in 2016-17 BME staff at one trust were nine times more likely to enter the disciplinary process compared to white colleagues.

Robert Kline, who was NHS England director for WRES and engagement until September, said: “What you have is some trusts making very significant improvement, quite a few trusts making a bit of improvement and the others largely flatlining, which is why there is an improvement but let’s not get too carried away.”

Navina Evans, chief executive of East London Foundation Trust, told us that trusts failing to tackle racial bias are often missing out on solutions to major challenges facing the NHS such as workforce, efficiency, productivity and value for money.

She said: “We have a crisis in leadership and workforce and you just have to look at all of your resources wherever you can get them. If you are not looking at how you can get the best out of black staff, Asian staff, you end up paying more money for agency staff when you have got them sitting there under your nose and you are not looking in the right place.”

The WRES data also showed that board level representation across all trusts is poor with two thirds of trusts having 10 per cent or less of its voting board members from non-white backgrounds; 172 trusts have no BME people on their board.

Mr Kline added: “Boards have to decide [that racial bias] has got to change and then have to give the trust licence to make changes. You have to lead from the top. Enough trusts have shown what can be done but there is no excuse for others not to do the same.”

There has been some good news though. The data showed for the second year running that there was an increase in the number of BME nurses and midwives at bands 6-9.